Phil Cushman, Warning on Cults


Increasing numbers of young people are joining religious and pseudo-religious sects all over the world. Some of them have completely broken off contact with their families in order to follow the cult leaders. Parents, teachers and members of the church have tried to keep them from joining these groups, often without success. The following text was put out as a leaflet by the University Religious Council at the University of California at Berkeley to be distributed to students as a warning.

Chapter I: Growing Up

LEARN TO BE A QUESTIONER. When you feel alone, lonely and totally overwhelmed by a decision you need to make and find yourself wishing that someone would just TELL you what to do, when you feel like the world used to make sense, but now everything is falling apart, you're vulnerable.
When you're hurting (or even when you're not):
Beware of people with magical answers or 35 solutions who are excessively or inappropriately friendly. THERE ARE NO INSTANT FRIENDSHIPS!
Beware of groups that pressure you into joining them. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU EXCEPT YOU.
Beware of groups that recruit you through guilt. Guilt produced by others is rarely a productive emotion.
Beware of invitations to isolated weekend workshops having vague goals. There is no reason to be vague unless there is something to hide.
You should know that the two basic principles of mind control ("brainwashing") are:
1. If you can get a person to BEHAVE the way you want, you can get that person to BELIEVE the way you want.
2. Sudden, drastic changes in environment lead to heightened suggestibility and to drastic changes in attitudes and beliefs.
Don't be foolish! Protect yourself! Don't go away for a weekend or longer with a stranger or group, unless:
You know the name of the sponsoring group. You are thoroughly familiar with its beliefs and affiliations and goals. You know what will be expected of you. You know that you will be free and able to leave at any time.
So, if you ever feel overwhelmed, lonely, confused or in need of friends or direction, reach out to someone you trust: a friend, teacher, a parent, counselor, a crisis hot line, a member of the clergy, a member of the Campus Ministry.

overwhelmed: überfordert
: easily hurt or harmed
beware of sb.lsth. : be careful of sb./sth.
: unsuitable; not genuine
pressure sb. into doing sth.:
try to force sb. to do sth.
recruit sb.
: get sb. as a member of a group
guilt : feeling that one has done sth. wrong
programme for group study or work on a special subject goal: aim
heightened suggestibility
: erhöhte Aufnahmebereitschaft
stupid, unwise
: completely
be familiar with sth. : have a good knowledge of sth.
affiliation :
connection as a member or branch
trust sb. .
have confidence in sb.
crisis hot line:
direct telephone line to sb. who can help
: Geistlichkeit
Campus Ministry
: Universitätsgeistlichkeit

<Understanding the contents
1. The writer of this leaflet suggests that there are moments in our lives when we are particularly sensitive to influences from other people. What situations does he refer to?
2. What kind of people should we be especially careful of in such cases?
3. Why should we have doubts about them?
4. What should we always make sure of before going to meetings with them?
5. Instead of going to strangers for advice when we are in serious difficulties, what would the writer of this text rather see us do?

Analysing the text
6. The writer of this leaflet tries to influence his readers by telling them what to do or how to behave in certain situations: He gives them advice, warns and instructs them. The leaflet is an instructive text; it belongs to the text type* instruction.
What kind of sentences are typical of instructive texts? Find from eight to ten examples.
7. One basic way of structuring texts of this text type is by enumerating or listing the items with no regard to their importance, i.e. by using a simple listing order. Show where the writer makes use of it in this leaflet. What is each of the first five instructions followed by? When two sentences have the same grammatical form, we say they have a parallel structure. They are examples of parallelism. When such sentences also begin with the repetition of the same word or words, we speak of anaphora.
a) Where does the writer make use of these stylistic devices?
b) What effects may these stylistic means have on the reader?

10. The writer of the leaflet can only help people if he can get them interested in reading it. How does he try to give it a certain appeal- apart from the methods discussed above? Study
a) the graphic signs (paragraph length, letter types, punctuation) and
b) the syntactical signs (sentence length and complexity, dominant personal pronoun).

Going beyond the text

11. How would you react to this leaflet?
12. Why do certain people fanatically identify themselves with religious sects or political extremists? Discuss.
13. Is somebody you know, or are you yourself, a member of a youth or other club? Explain why you/they joined, and report on the group's activities to the class.